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General Fiction

House of Silence

Linda Gillard has become a bit of an adopted author over at the ReadItSwapIt forums. She does stop by to chat and swap now and then and many members champion her work. Not being a huge bestseller or an easily categorised genre writer, Linda had trouble getting a publisher to pick up her latest book and therefore went down the route of electronic self-publishing.
I may get lynched by the ladies of ReadItSwapIt for saying this but I wasn’t blown away by House of Silence. It was easy to read and enjoyable enough but I’m not sure I’d remember much about it in a year’s time.
I think I may have liked it a whole lot more if it was set in the past, preferably the twenties. There’s a number of reasons for this and I’m sure a lot of readers will disagree with me but here goes. The bulk of the story happens over the Christmas break, just a few days. A lot of stuff comes out into the open and I didn’t feel it was long enough for Gwen to connect with the family or adequate time for all those secrets to be revealed. In these modern times, Christmas is one of the few times family gather together to create a situation for this plot to unfold. If we hop in our time machine, it would have been more common for wealthier families to disappear β€œoff to the country” for weeks or months at a time. Just think of Brideshead Revisited (which I couldn’t get out of my head whilst reading this, whilst the themes and style is different, it starts with a friend being taken to the family home in the country and the family member wanting to hide his family away).
Secondly, Hattie just seemed too child-like for a woman in her mid-thirties. I can’t even suggest that she’d be better off as a teenage character because kids are much more in touch with the world these days. I might have been able to accept her naivety if it were set in a different era. Maybe Linda had meant for her mental development to have been stunted by her childhood but after getting to the end, I just thought she would have been a completely different person having gone though what had happened.
And lastly, do families really manage to get through Christmas without turning on the TV? At the start of the book, Linda makes it clear that the book is set now, in a modern world with the internet and television dramas. As soon as Gwen and Alfie get out into the country it’s like stepping back into another world where sewing quilts is the top entertainment. I’m sure a large number of people do enjoy sewing but it was clear that only Hattie and Gwen enjoyed it here. There was a mention of board games too but it all seemed so quaint.
I’m writing this as someone that does go to the family home in the country for Christmas most years. OK it’s a detached house not a stately home, but none of this seemed familiar to me. I tend to go for a week minimum and the time just flies by. Once you’ve tired of walks and looking at the mostly withered garden, you tend to put the telly on and watch cheesy films and the Doctor Who special. I don’t think there was even a TV in the whole book, despite two of the characters working in the industry.
You can read other opinions on this thread on ReadItSwapIt, although it has descended a bit into an anti-ebook discussion. There’s also a thread on the reasoning behind this being ebook only with comments from Linda herself here.

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  1. Ellie

    For those of you not on RiSi, Linda posted a reponse @

    "I just tried to post a comment on your blog, patchworkbunny, but it didn't like my ID and the comment was lost, so just popping in to say I was very intertested to read your thoughtful comments.

    One of the points of the novel was that this dysfunctional family live in the past – and a fantasy past – a point that would have been difficult to make if the book was actually set in the past. The domineering matriarch who lives in a Blyton-esque fantasy world of her own would not have countenanced a TV in her sitting room. (I think if anyone had wanted to watch tv they'd have had to have a set in their bedroom!)

    Board games and musical soirees were meant to seem anachronistic. The idea was that Gwen had wandered (like Alice) into a mad time-capsule world which was both attractive and unsettling.

    Thanks anyway for sharing your thoughts on the book. I'm always very interested to hear what readers think. A great many editors turned this book down, so you're not alone in having reservations!"

  2. So many books, so little time

    Well I find it great to see different opinions on a book. I had said I felt it may have dragged or dulled but then it pulled me right in and I really liked it. I think the world would be a boring place if we all liked/hated the same things.

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